Gryphon in Light: A Review

Jess |
There might be spoilers. Nothing major—just hints that’ll make you want to know more. These are my own…

There might be spoilers. Nothing major—just hints that’ll make you want to know more.

These are my own personal feelings and opinions so don’t get your feathers all ruffled because someone might actually disagree with your opinion.

My feeling when I started: “Eh…”

My feeling when I finished: “Dammit, I gotta wait another freakin’ year?!?”

The reason that I started off feeling “eh” about it is this: While I like the fact that Lackey returned to present day Valdemar, it honestly felt like I was trying to put on a shirt that fit my fat ass fifty pounds ago. Another reason for being just “eh” is that over the last twelve or so years, I’ve become dissatisfied with contemporary fantasy in general for reasons I’ll get to after this review.

The first part of Gryphon in Light was published in three of the Valdemar anthologies. One of them—Transmutation—I remember reading roughly about fifteen years ago or so. The most recent I remember reading was sometime at the end of 2018. Anyway, that’s why my feelings on Gryphon started off as “eh…”

The problem I had with those stories—and it’s carried over to Gryphon—is that some of the details are wrong. For instance, in the story’s opening, Darkwind is introduced as k’Treva—he was originally k’Sheyna so what changed? Another one is a couple of references to Kerowyn’s Skybolts as Firebolts. Like wtf? Finally, the way Kel was treated was… difficult to read, to say the least. Some of the reasons for the treatment struck me as fabricated and honestly, didn’t really make sense considering the events in previous books. I honestly felt like I was reading a very badly written, out-of-character fanfic.

The negatives out of the way, once I got past the first the part, the story improved greatly. There’s something on the way that’s worse than the Mage Storms, and it even has the Gods scared. So we now have the classic Hero’s Quest setup, complete with the gathering of the hero’s companions. And we also had some unexpected additions to our hero’s quest. Well, honestly, it shouldn’t have been unexpected but either way, it does make me excited for the next book.

I really loved how fortunes for Jefti and his mother, Ammari, improved—and there was a very good twist there that I’m not going to reveal. There’s also a blurb in there about Nightwind’s past that I found very interesting—once again, not revealing anything.

At this stage of my life, I find that I really relate to Firesong in this book. It honestly sounds like he’s going through mid-life crisis—and yes, I’ll readily admit that I’m there now. There’s this struggle that you go through where you’re like “okay, I’ve made it this far. Have I accomplished all that I wanted?” Frequently, you’re going to tell yourself no. Another part of that is the aches and pains you could shrug off when you were younger are suddenly harder to ignore, and you stock up on ibuprofen or your pain-killer of choice.

Instead of buying that Super Snake I wanted, I did something more practical and bought a house. That doesn’t mean that I’m immune from the emotional upheaval that is midlife, though. I’ll admit that it sucks but I’ve been told that it gets better.

Granted, the negative is that ends on a cliffhanger with the words “To Be Continued.” We all know that ML’s series tend to be trilogies, so “TBC” is pretty much a given. Maybe the editors should have taken a page from David Eddings and ended Gryphon with something like “Here ends Book 1….” with a blurb about the next book.

Despite the negatives, the ending did leave me somewhat anticipating the next book. So I’m giving it 3 out of 5 stars.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Becoming Jaded

“Another useless bauble with a price-tag on it, courtesy of our almighty god called Capitalism”

So why have I become jaded with contemporary fantasy? Even though this feels like a recent development, it really isn’t.

You see, my dissatisfaction with contemporary fantasy started sometime after I graduated college in 2010. I remember going into the Borders in Richfield and walking around the sci-fi/fantasy section and just feeling what? Blah? I remember talking about the feeling in a blog post from late 2010:

You know, it hit me just this past Tuesday when I was walking around the Borders in Richfield. I was browsing the Sci-fi/Fantasy section, mostly looking for anything new that I might be interested in. Honestly, I almost considered buying the first book of The Collegium Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey, since it was paperback. I idly flipped through it, read a few pages, and decided not to buy it. I think the main thing that really disappointed me about the book was the lack of interior artwork from Larry Dixon — which was the one thing that made her earlier books stand out — the books that I faithfully devoured as a teenager.

I think where I’m going with this is that it seems like everything nowadays is either just a ripoff or a pale imitation of something that was done when I was younger. Looking through the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section at Borders, that was the feeling that I got. Or maybe it’s the sense that the graphic novels, literature and other creative ventures that fueled my imagination for most of my life have just turned into another useless bauble with a price-tag on it, courtesy of our almighty god called Capitalism.
Yes, that is a tad cynical but I’m thinking that I can’t be the only person who feels that way. The problem is I’m not sure what to do about it; maybe there isn’t anything that can be done about it or maybe it’s just a natural part of maturing — essentially, I’m putting behind the things that sustained me as a child because I no longer need them. Or maybe I need to find something new?

— Livejournal entry december 2010

That is the vast majority of my discontent with contemporary fantasy. Aside from the story and characters that you grow to care about, the interior artwork was what made Lackey’s books stand out. It sort of ticked me off to find that they had been excluded—unless they were part of the hardcover edition—which I never had a chance to look at because college and trying to graduate.

Another part of that is the LotR and GoT imitators out there with characters that are perfect in every way and have no flaws, or growth. Or have overlong pretentious names and titles. Factoring into that is the other angle—studios looking to capitalize on the success of LotR and GoT so they scour for drek that can be made into a movie (*cough* Eragon *cough*) or a tv series (*gives a nasty side-eye* at The Shannara Chronicles).

No, the Shannara books aren’t drek—well, at least up to Scions. I haven’t read anything past that point though so I can’t really say for the newer stuff.

Basically, Hollywood ruins everything it touches. Hence: “Another useless bauble with a price-tag on it, courtesy of our almighty god called Capitalism.”

I’ve been reading Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar books since I was a teenager. The first book in the series that I started reading was Winds of Fates back in 1993. I was 15 at the time and on the verge of dropping out of high-school for *reasons.

That’s another story for another time, though.

Every so often, I would bring a couple of these books out for a re-read for the hell of it and honestly, they’ve gotten me through some hard times. I’m not talking about the upheaval of my life that was 2018 and 2019—playing Fate/Grand Order (and to a lesser extent, Extella and Extella Link) actually helped me get through that particular time period.

Well, what gives is this: I’ve found that it’s more fun to read about ordinary people doing extraordinary things as opposed to someone who is technically already extraordinary doing even more extraordinary things. Almost all of the anime I’ve watched—from Ronin Warriors, up to the Fate franchise—has been ordinary kids forced into the role of being heroes. Shiro from Fate/Stay Night is probably a good example of someone who is ordinary that ends up doing something extraordinary.

Oh c’mon, fighting Gilgamesh to a standstill is fucking epic and one of the best scenes in Ufotable’s version of Unlimited Blade Works.

On that note, that could be why I relate so well to the protagonist of Fate/Grand Order—just an every-day average mofo forced to do something extraordinary (saving the world/saving humanity’s future).

And that’s it from me!

Keep an eye out for more Fate/Grand Order– and Silent Shadow content!

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